The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 2014

stress and hardships

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For a while there, I used to chew a lot of gum. These days, not so much.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have guessed by this point, your humble narrator was all over Brooklyn in the last week. Pictured above is the view from (literally) DUMBO – Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Onramp. You may want to tell me that this drippy warren of pigeon shit stained and ankle turning cobbles is the very model of a modern major city if you like, but you can have it. It’s always dark down here and that’s precisely how you get a vampire infestation started. How’s that for a rumor – Did you know that there’s a Vampire problem in DUMBO? That would suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vampires are silly, of course, and kind of passé. All the cool kids are into Lich’s these days, or so I’m told by the Moroccan kid downstairs. I did spot a tugboat floating by, but didn’t head down toward the ConEd substation at the waterfront to follow it. My path was not one of exploration, as mentioned earlier in the week, rather I was just walking from Red Hook to Astoria and keeping the river in sight the whole way. Next time, I’ll pick around the side streets and see what wishes to noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing that I couldn’t help but notice was this CitiBike rack across the street from the Navy Yard, frozen in a three foot block of plow shaped ice. For some reason, this crystallized the period of turnover from Bloomberg to the current Mayor for me. Nothing cutting offered there, it just seems to be kind of emblematic. Good luck with the cold and snow today. Your humble narrator unhappily offers that a return to Red Hook, despite the blistering cold, is on his schedule for today – but I most assuredly will not be walking home.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 28, 2014 at 9:30 am

mentality and resource

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A humble narrator will be live in meatspace at Brooklyn Brainery tonight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured is the view from the Smith 9th street station in South Brooklyn, looking down upon the fabulous Gowanus. Business has been calling me down this way all through the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. For the moment, at least, it appears that I’m going to be a regular visitor, so a bit of curiosity about the locale has been blooming in that withered carbuncle which beats within my chest. In no way do I plan on developing the intimacy with this superfund site that one enjoys with Newtown Creek, but there are things to see down here, I tell you. A point of listening to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” is made, and a preference will be stated for the Audiorealms produced (and Wayne June narrated) reading of the unabridged text.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that this is the Hamilton Avenue Bridge in an open position which we’re seeing here, but I might be wrong. Most of my experience with this part of Brooklyn involved driving over it, via the Gowanus Expressway, on my way from the Flatlands Canarsie area to either the Battery Tunnel or one of the East River bridges. I’m not looking for one of you, lords and ladies, to fill me in. It is a curse knowing too much, and the joy of discovering something new – at least to me – has become something of a rarity these days. I’m saving the entire Bronx for future usage, for instance. I did wait around for awhile to see what sort of maritime traffic had called for the opening, but nothing appeared.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my back burner projects, the kind that never really gets started and is seldom finished, has been to track down “Lovecraft in Brooklyn.” The fellow lived here for an interval, which by all reports he did not enjoy.

The building which “Cool Air” was set in still stands on 14th street in Manhattan, and was observed in the appropriately named post “Cool Air.”

The Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, which Mr. Lovecraft reportedly vandalized, was visited in the post “frightful pull.” I’ve even located the Suydam family tomb in Greenwood Cemetery, burial place of an antagonist from “The Horror at Red Hook itself.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2014 at 9:30 am

The Newtown Creek “Magic Lantern” Show

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The Newtown Creek Magic lantern show returns, tomorrow night at Brooklyn Brainery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On February 27th, your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at the Brooklyn Brainery – here’s the details. This is the 2014 version of the thing, btw, updated with newly learned information and recently captured images. In the past, this photo presentation and info dump has been offered to political clubs, historical societies, and to the general public at a variety of venues.

Come with?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brooklyn Brainery is a swell operation, located in the nice part of Brooklyn nearby Grand Army Plaza and several Subway lines. I’ve worked with them a few times in the last year, doing walking tours, and they’re very cool folks. Also, the space they’re located in is very nice – physical comfort wise and such.

From their website 

We host classes about all sorts of things: from physics to Australian desserts, from HTML to shorthand and just about every nook and cranny in between.

All of our course topics are dreamed up and suggested by you, and our teachers are a group of awesome people from around Brooklyn and the whole city. Anyone can teach–you just need a passion for the topic and a desire to share it with others. We do all the planning, taking care of sign ups, marketing, and materials, so you can focus on the important stuff (teaching, duh).”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The presentation will be about 2 hours long, with the actual slideshow and talk occupying roughly one and a half hours. What follows will be a Q&A session, wherein questions will be offered that a humble narrator will endeavor to intelligently answer. Brooklyn Brainery is asking $12 for the class.

There are still a few tickets left, so click on through and join the conversation about Newtown Creek on February 27th at 8 p.m.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

tone and tenor

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Gear envy in today’s post, and the joy of photographing photographers as they photograph.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing about the part of Brooklyn wherein one finds the modern day Brooklyn Bridge Park is that, within my lifetime mind you, it has become a relatively safe place. I’ve been told tales of photography people hiring toughs and ruffians to guard their equipment around these parts to scare away trouble “back in the day,” lest the baser elements of the NY streets be allowed to pilfer expensive equipment.

People walk around like they’re safe or something these days.

Last week, your humble narrator wandered through, on a terror filled walk from venerable Red Hook to an end destination in reliable Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observed were two photographers, but one was presumptively an assistant.

One of my smaller joys is photographing photographers as they photograph, as it satisfies some urge in me to document everything I see. Also, those of us who brandish cameras about constantly are ridiculous and are seldom ridiculed because we are out of frame when a photo is captured. I find these shots fascinating, and there are all these dramatic postures which are spontaneously displayed when photographers photograph, so whenever I can photograph photographers as they photograph, I do. I like to shoot shoots, as it were.

These guys though (I don’t mean the kid with the iPhone), profit greatly from the fact that no one is going to come and take away their stuff in modern day Brooklyn. They had something like 70 grand worth of equipment out there for all to admire. This was me, I’d have Hank the Elevator Guy and a couple of the stoutly built Croatians that populate my neighborhood in Astoria along to keep things nice and even.

Look at that lens, just look at it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My educated guess as to the identity of the lens this fellow is using, with my conjecture based purely on its physical appearance, is that it’s either a more than $10,000 Canon EF 500mm f/4L (an actual model number or variant is difficult to distinguish) or the top of the line $13,000 plus Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L. The cameras being bandied about were Canon EOS-1D X‘s, which will set you back around $7k a unit. The small black lens on the guy in the foreground’s camera costs about $2,300, and in just a few minutes, I saw about $20,000 worth of glass swapped in and out of that suitcase – the sort of lenses I dream about using let alone owning. Those tripod legs alone are about $1,500 to $3,000 each, and those tripod heads ain’t cheap either – so tack on another few thousand bucks.

Wow. All this gear for a mid-day, winter sun, outing. Me, I’m going to be there early and late, not the afternoon. The sun is at a bad angle to the City from December to Mid March, it’s the worst time of year.

These guys must have been on their way back from the Olympics in Sochi or something and had some time alone with the gear before their kit had to be returned to AP or the Times.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2014 at 9:30 am

frigid and impersonal

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Gotham City, or Metropolis?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First, Happy Regifugium.

NYC – barely recognize the place these days, although I’ve watched it all happening, the Shining City has started looking like Metropolis of late – but we ain’t got no Superman. Accordingly, one would presume to be the first person, perhaps in decades, to offer and advance a suggestion that we just get it over with and build a dome over the city. We all know that this will happen eventually. We’ve always known, deep inside.

Imagine, that we are destined to gambol and labor within a vast and transparent geodesic dome spanning all five boroughs (and the Hudson riverfront of New Jersey). We could build very tall around the center, and project ads on it at night. It would pretty much let us laugh at floods from within the fishbowl, and everybody’s friends at the NYC DEP could be responsible for air freshness and circulation (and billing). That would be swell.

Also, if we used to be Gotham, then where’s the other guy?

from wikipedia

In ancient Roman religion, Regifugium or Fugalia (“King’s Flight”) was an annual observance that took place every February 24. The Romans themselves offer varying views on the meaning of the day. According to Varro and Ovid, the festival commemorated the flight of the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, in 510 BC. Plutarch, however, explains it as the symbolic departure of the priest with the title rex sacrorum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Secondly, Happy Dragobete.

Of course, rain and weather issues would be a thing of the past under the dome, but sky graffiti would likely become a huge issue. The sunset would likely illuminate a “REVS” tag before long. One surmises that poorer sections of the City would receive fair shares of air circulation and as clean a patch of dome as Manhattan’s Financial District or Central Park would get but we all know how things really work in this town, with or without a theoretical yet definitively hemispherical enclosure. If there’s a dome over new York City, Far Rockaway’s section of the Euclidean shield will have a crack in it.

The scorched reality found, as the path of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself tracks across the sky in seasonally appropriate positions and passes over the curved reflective surface of the dome – any damage which might be visited upon neighboring counties by the intense heat and radiance could be considered an unfortunate consequence suffered by an outside few for for the greater good of the many inside. Just like the way that the water system was built.

Also, terrorism.

from wikipedia

Dragobete is a traditional Romanian holiday originating from Dacian times and celebrated on February, the 24th. Specifically, Dragobete was the son of Baba Dochia, which stands for the main character in the pagan myth related to spring arrival and the end of the harsh winter.

The day is particularly known as “the day when the birds are betrothed”. It is around this time that the birds begin to build their nests and mate. On this day, considered locally the first day of spring, boys and girls gather vernal flowers and sing together. Maidens used to collect the snow that still lies on the ground in many villages and then melt it, using the water in magic potions throughout the rest of the year. Those who take part in Dragobete customs are supposed to be protected from illness, especially fevers, for the rest of the year. If the weather allows, girls and boys pick snowdrops or other early spring plants for the person they are courting. In Romania, Dragobete is known as a day for lovers, rather like Valentine’s Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Political or business insiders would achieve a new cache from the descriptor in this dream of a humble narrator. As a child, comic books coupled with speculative fiction stories filled his mind with images of domed cities and other marvels of the world that was to come. These domed cities were populated by a group of athletic people who wore stretchy superhero style clothes and used handheld computers. They ate artificial food, had remote control robot armies fight for them, and they lived in cities which had both movable sidewalks AND jet packs for longer distance travel. We’ve got all of that already except for the Dome and the Jet packs… I think Metropolis has Jet Packs, in Gotham you swing from a rope.

Also, it’s August Derleth’s birthday.

from wikipedia

August William Derleth (February 24, 1909 – July 4, 1971) was an American writer and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror, as well as his founding of the publisher Arkham House (which did much to bring supernatural fiction into print in hardcover in the US that had only been readily available in the UK), Derleth was a leading American regional writer of his day, as well as prolific in several other genres, including historical fiction, poetry, detective fiction, science fiction, and biography.

A 1938 Guggenheim Fellow, Derleth considered his most serious work to be the ambitious Sac Prairie Saga, a series of fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction naturalist works designed to memorialize life in the Wisconsin he knew. Derleth can also be considered a pioneering naturalist and conservationist in his writing.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 24, 2014 at 9:30 am

mounting eagerness

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Man, I’ve barely mentioned my beloved Creek lately.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, business took me to Red Hook’s Erie Basin, a trip which turned out to be abortive as that which I went to photograph would not be available until next week. Having a free afternoon, unexpectedly, one decided to walk home to Astoria. Shots from the journey are being processed, but your humble narrator found himself all along the river, and everywhere from Brooklyn Bridge park to The Navy Yard. My back started to ache in Williamsburg, and discretion being the better part of valor, I cut the walk off at Metropolitan and Roebling. Not bad for my first serious perambulation of 2014, but I am badly out of shape after a hibernation forced by incessant ice and snow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast soliloquy governed my thoughts on the walk, and a realization that I havent been spending much time on the Newtown Creek- personally and at this blog – in the last few months left me thunderstruck. Accordingly, pictured above is the DB Cabin rail bridge, spanning Dutch Kills, which carries LIRR Montauk branch traffic. DB Cabin hasn’t been opened since 2002, as its motors are non functional. Accordingly, Dutch Kills is an industrial canal which cannot accept anything larger than a rowboat, and that’s only at low tide. There are those who would like to throw this inheritance away, and turn it into some sort of bullheaded swampland, but that’s something that sounds good at cocktail parties. They forget about Mosquitos, and jobs for those beyond their clique, and that M1 zones are for industry – not water sports or bird watching.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge frustrates me as I’ve never gotten a decent shot of a train crossing it. There’s another rail bridge at English Kills which has stymied my desires in similar fashion over the years, but its just a matter of time until I get both. That’s the thing about me and my beloved Creek – I ain’t going nowhere. There are some who wish I would just fall in and disappear into the black mayonnaise, probably due to my brash nature and overwhelmingly unwholesome aspect, but they can go jump in the East River and swim to Manhattan to beg the Mayor for a job for all I care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek is the subject of much speculation, discussion, and debate. All over the world – architects, planners, and engineers sniff at the air and smell a giant bucket of Federal money about to spent here. They anxiously twist their hands trying to conceive of some angle by which their pet projects can be shoehorned into the Superfund process. They forget that this is the home of industry, which must be encouraged to not just stay here, but to reinvest in Brooklyn and Queens – albeit in a manner which is less destructive to the processes of human and animal life along the waterway. You can have both.

Also, all bets are off, and your Newtown Pentacle is back in session.

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approaching triumph

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Infrastructure pornography, gratuitous and forbidding, in today’s post.

Also, I’ll be at Brooklyn Brainery on February 27th presenting “the Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the terrible scale of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn with… Staten Island… Bridges are on my mind today, especially the ones that connect Long Island with other extant land masses scattered about the archipelago.

Today will be just a lot of photos, and your humble narrator will be taking advantage of the short interval of warmth offered today. Out and about, looking at things- that’s me.

from wikipedia

The bridge is owned by the City of New York and operated by MTA Bridges and Tunnels, an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Interstate 278 passes over the bridge, connecting the Staten Island Expressway with the Gowanus Expressway and the Belt Parkway. The Verrazano, along with the other three major Staten Island bridges, created a new way for commuters and travelers to reach Brooklyn, Long Island, and Manhattan by car from New Jersey.

The bridge was the last great public works project in New York City overseen by Robert Moses, the New York State Parks Commissioner and head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, who had long desired the bridge as a means of completing the expressway system which was itself largely the result of his efforts. The bridge was also the last project designed by Chief Engineer Othmar Ammann…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #1, or East River Suspension Bridge #1, or Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn.

from nyc.gov

The Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #3, or Manhattan Bridge, from the water.

from nyc.gov

The youngest of the three DOT East River suspension bridges, construction began on October 1, 1901. The bridge opened to traffic on December 31, 1909 and completed in 1910. The Bridge’s total length is 5,780 feet from abutment to abutment at the lower level; and 6,090 feet on the upper roadways from portal to portal. Its main span length is 1,470 feet long and each of its four cables is 3,224 feet long. The Bridge was designed by Leon Moisseiff (1872-1943)…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #2, Williamsburg Bridge, from Manhattan.

from nyc.gov

When it opened in 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a span of 1600 feet and a total length of 7308 feet and the first with all-steel towers. The 310-foot steel towers support four cables, each measuring 18_ inches in diameter and weighing 4,344 tons. In all, nearly 17,500 miles of wire are used in the cables that suspend the bridge 135 feet above the East River. The massive stiffening trusses were designed not only to withstand high winds, but also to support rail traffic on the deck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #4, Queensboro Bridge, from Long Island City.

from nyc.gov

The bridge was constructed between 1901 and 1909 and was opened to the traffic on June 18, 1909. A collaboration between the bridge engineer Gustav Lindenthal (1850-1935) and architect Henry Hornbostel, the main bridge is 3,725 feet long, the longest of the East River Bridges. The overall length of the bridge including the Manhattan and Queens approaches is 7,449 feet.

The site is an ideal location for a bridge as Roosevelt Island provides a convenient footing for the piers. Seventy-five thousand tons of steel went into the original bridge and its approaches. Its original cost was about $18 million, including $4.6 million for land. At the time of completion, it was not only the longest cantilever bridge in the United States, but also was designed for heavier loads than any other bridges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welfare Island, aka Roosevelt Island Bridge, from Roosevelt Island looking towards Queens.

from nyc.gov

The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tower drive, vertical lift, movable bridge across the East Channel of the East River between the borough of Queens and Roosevelt Island, New York City. The span length is 418 feet. It was known as the Welfare Island Bridge when it was first opened to traffic in 1955.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Triborough Bridge, aka Robert F Kennedy Bridge, from Astoria, Queens.

from wikipedia

Construction began on Black Friday in 1929, but soon the Triborough project’s outlook began to look bleak. Othmar Ammann, who had collapsed the original design’s two-deck roadway into one, requiring lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers, saving $10 million on the towers alone, was enlisted again to help guide the project. Using New Deal money, it was resurrected in the early 1930s by Robert Moses, who created the Triborough Bridge Authority to fund, build and operate it. The completed structure was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936.

The total cost of the bridge was more than $60 million, one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression, more expensive even than the Hoover Dam. The structure used concrete from factories from Maine to Mississippi. To make the formwork for pouring the concrete, a whole forest on the Pacific Coast was cut down.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate Bridge, also from Astoria, Queens.

from wikipedia

The Hell Gate Bridge (originally the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge or The East River Arch Bridge) is a 1,017-foot (310 m)[3] steel through arch railroad bridge in New York City. The bridge crosses the Hell Gate, a strait of the East River, between Astoria, Queens and Wards Island in Manhattan.

The bridge is the largest of three bridges that form the Hell Gate complex. An inverted bowstring truss bridge with four 300-foot (91.4 m) spans crosses the Little Hell Gate (now filled in); and a 350-foot (106.7 m) fixed truss bridge crosses the Bronx Kill (now narrowed by fill). Together with approaches, the bridges are more than 17,000 feet (3.2 mi; 5.2 km) long.

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